Sometimes I have to wonder what all the fuss is about with white truffles. Yes, the ultra-expensive fungi from Italy. Don’t get me wrong. They smell absolutely decadent and seductive, and shaving them on to many different things is as much fun as eating them. They are delicious, although I think black truffles sometimes have more flavor.
But white truffles are devilishly expensive, especially this year. The weather in most of Italy, particularly Piedmont where the best ones come from, has been very dry, so the white truffles have not grown as well as they normally do. In fact, there is a shortage. So the light brown hard balls of gastronomic pleasure are now costing as much as $10,000 a kilo to the trade, according to a few Barolo producers I spoke to. I am not sure about distribution or mark-ups to restaurants around the world but it means a few slivers on some pasta or something else is going to cost a small fortune.
For instance, the other day I was in Las Vegas with some friends from Miami who make cigars, among them being George Padron of Padron Cigars, Litto Gomez of Flor Dominicana and Ernest Perez-Carrillo of El Credito Cigars. They all wanted to eat white truffles, so they reserved a table at Spago for lunch. We were about 10 people. (I was surprised to see that Eric Klein, the former chef at Wynn’s steakhouse, is now the head of Spago’s kitchen.)
After a couple of pizzas, he recommended a little tagliatelli tossed with butter and white truffles. Plus, he served some corn bread with the priceless stuff on top. He came out of the kitchen with great fanfare and shaved a couple of slivers on the cornbread (weird combination!) and four or five paper thin slices on the flat pasta. He also served the truffles on vanilla ice cream on top of an apple tart (a cool combination). Anyway, with a couple of bottles of wine (nothing super special) it came out to close to $200 a head. Check out the video.
It all seemed sort of expensive. But that’s the cost of eating the precious white truffle this year. There isn’t much of the stuff around (meaning a shortage) but what is available is very good quality. And if it’s any consolation, the 2007 vintage looks to be a very good one for Piedmont, particularly Barolo and Barbaresco producers.
As Aldo Conterno says, when it’s a good and plentiful year for white truffles, it’s usually not a very good year for wine. It’s because there is too much rain, or moisture. This year was a dry grape harvest; so it’s very good for wine but not very plentiful for white truffles. Nonetheless, Conterno invited me to dinner at his house a few weeks back and he served white truffles, which he found on his property, with various courses including raw chopped veal, tagliatelli with butter, a “fonduta” (sort of a fontina cheese fondue), and roasted rabbit. We sort of OD’d on white truffle. But it was great fun and delicious.
Here's a clip from a dinner at Aldo's house:
The 1971 Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia and 1978 Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia were fabulous wines with all the courses. Plus, we drank the 2000 Granbussia from a five-liter bottle, which I blogged about already. The older Barolos were both rich and fruity and still showed lots of spicy, berry and earthy character. May be it was my imagination, but I swear I found aromas and flavors of white truffles with hints of tar and roses with the fruit.
Here are my non-blind tasting notes:
1978 Granbussia Riserva: A superb red with licorice, plum, flowers and earth aromas that follow through to a full body, with a dense mouth feel; yet lots of fresh fruit and a long silky finish. This is so clean and long. It will age for decades ahead. 98 points, non-blind.
1971 Granbussia Riserva: I can’t get over the silky texture of this rich Barolo with lots of plum, licorice and truffle aromas and flavors. Medium to full-bodied, with ultrarefined tannins and a long, long finish. Lasts for minutes on the palate. 95 points, non-blind.
Aldo assured me the 1971 and 1978 were not great years for white truffles, but the grape harvests were fabulous, as illustrated by the two above wines. White truffles must have been sparse and expensive in 1971 and 1978.
Peter Czyryca — November 15, 2007 6:00pm ET
Jason D'antonio — Toronto — November 15, 2007 11:35pm ET
Steven Balavender — Tampa, Fl — November 16, 2007 7:26am ET
Sarah Newton — Rome, Italy — November 16, 2007 9:23am ET
Steve Barber — Clayton, CA. — November 16, 2007 12:52pm ET
Dan Liguori — West Palm Beach, Fl — November 18, 2007 10:22pm ET
James R Biddle — Dayton, OH — November 22, 2007 1:55am ET
James Suckling — — November 22, 2007 4:18am ET
James Suckling — — November 22, 2007 4:22am ET
James Suckling — — November 22, 2007 4:39am ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions